Eighteen-year-old Jess (Parminder Nagra) is football mad (her hero is David Beckham), but her Indian parents (Anupam Kher) and (Shaheen Khan) want her to find a nice Indian boy and settle down, like her sister Pinky (Archie Panjabi), who is about to be married. Jess starts to play in the local girls football team with Jules (Keira Knightley) whose father Mike (Frank Harper) is supportive, but mother Paula (Juliet Stevenson) is more interested in buying pretty underwear for her. The girls are both rather interested in Joe their football coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who has his own problems.
 

3.5
Putting the boot into stereotypes.

Eighteen-year-old Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) lives with her parents and her older sister in south-west London. The family are Punjabi Sikhs, and the parents expect their daughters to conform to their culture and customs. But Jess is a bit of a rebel; her hero is footballer David Beckham, and she likes nothing better than to play soccer with the boys in the park. One day she’s spotted by Jules (Keira Knightley), an Anglo girl her own age who’s also a soccer freak. Jules invites Jess to join the local women’s soccer club, which is coached by Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Jess doesn’t dare tell her parents about this, which brings about inevitable complications.

Gurinder Chadha’s films have all been about the pressures on women and children within cultural minorities, and in Bend It Like Beckham she takes that proposition further to look not only at the pressures on Jess from her Indian family but on Jules, whose mother, Juliet Stevenson, wants her to conform too. The film is at its cheerful best when it explores the friendship between the two girls, their obsession with football, and the incomprehension of their families. Chadha likes to take stereotypes and have fun with them, and she does this with some success, and although she may not be a particularly accomplished filmmaker – her films are made like telemovies – she does love her characters, and it’s infectious. No wonder Bend It Like Beckham was such a hit in Britain, and at the recent Sydney Film Festival.